A special thank you to 2018 IWF Grant Partner, Dress for Success Quad Cities for writing this guest blog. To learn more about the organization, make a donation, or volunteer, visit https://quadcities.dressforsuccess.org/.
Empowering Women to Take the Next Step Toward Economic Independence
by Regina Haddock, Founder/Executive Director
The mission of Dress for Success is to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire, and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life. People tend to think only of the free suits and coaching Dress for Success gives to women heading to their interviews and new jobs. Yet once employed, we help them retain their jobs and advance in their careers through a unique program called the Professional Women’s Group (PWG). Why? A sisterhood of support encourages women to continue working toward a future that empowers them to understand the systemic barriers they face, set goals, expand their network of support, and/or go back to school—all to improve their chances of achieving economic independence, one step at a time.
In 2016, our partnership with the Iowa Women’s Foundation began with critical program support for our PWG program. At that point, up to 70% of our time and resources were spent keeping our heads above water with a suiting program that was growing anywhere from 20-40% per year. To date, more than 100 low-resource women have received free monthly workshops through the Professional Women’s Group designed specifically to help them retain employment and advance in their careers.
IWF funding for PWG from 2016-2018 helped usher in tremendous improvements in recruitment, program quality, and active engagement. Over these three years, we’ve seen active participants at year-end double from 14 to 28. More women graduate each year, and of these, one woman per year continues to stretch her leadership wings by attending the Success Summit, a free weekend conference sponsored by Dress for Success Worldwide. Each year one deserving delegate is empowered to return to her community to complete a successful Community Action Project.
This year’s delegate from the Quad Cities was Jennifer Crawford, who attended the Success Summit in Miami, Florida from June 29 to July 1. “I love being a part of this wonderful program that builds women up in a world that knocks so many down,” said Jennifer. “I have grown as a person being part of this group. I have met some amazing women who come from all aspects of life, and we have united as sisters. I have gained so much from this group it is now time to give back. They have given me friendship, confidence, self-worth, hope, and taught me how to be successful in the workplace.”
And Jennifer already has great insights into being a leader: “Leadership is taking responsibility for others. To guide them in the right directions and give them information to help them succeed, this is why I choose to be there for my fellow sisters when they need me. I share positivity and let them know I’m glad to know them. I enjoy going to meetings to continue to help others grow as I have.”
In addition to her written application, Jennifer read aloud to her PWG sisters why she wanted to be a delegate: “The PWG is a group that is continuing to grow in the Quad Cities. I love to be a part of a group whose mission is to help empower women and teach them to be successful in today’s world. If I am chosen as this year’s delegate, I will represent the Quad Cities chapter with honor and bring back the knowledge and courage to empower even more women in the Quad Cities.”
By the end, there was not a dry eye in the room. Thanks so much to the Iowa Women’s Foundation for helping us create a safe and empowering place for women of all walks of life to experience such a meaningful and uplifting sisterhood—some, for the first time in their lives.